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Big Sky resort, Montana

Winter Getaway: Montana Skiing

January 02, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
Montana’s expansive ski slopes draw families and celebrities alike, drawn by the state’s quiet, adventurous spirit. The state offers two big-name resorts, Big Sky and Big Mountain, but also boasts several other small ski areas where it’s not hard to trek off the beaten path into the Montana backcountry.

Big Mountain and Big Sky

When it comes to skiing, Montana is best known for Big Mountain and Big Sky, two very different resorts with contrasting atmospheres and clientele, according to Montana native Nicholas K. Geranios. In an Associated Press article, Geranios writes, “If Big Mountain is burgers, Big Sky is steak.” Families with children are generally welcome at this casual resort’s “ski bum chic” restaurants; visitors should also pay a visit to Whitefish, a tourist-friendly small town at the base of Big Mountain that isn’t far from famed Glacier National Park. 

At Big Sky, “located in the posh Paradise Valley near Yellowstone National Park,” visitors stay in lush hotel rooms and condos, and dine at high-end restaurants reachable “by horse-drawn sleigh,” writes Geranios.

The Scoop on Big Sky

In January 2008, The New York Times called Big Sky “the biggest place you’ve never skied.” But despite the slope’s magnificent setting, there is “rarely more than a few seconds’ lift line,” unless you want the 15-seat tram that summits Lone Peak. According to the Times, Big Sky is able to maintain a peaceful persona partly because of its “perceived remoteness.” However, the resort is only about an hour from Bozeman Airport.

SkiNet dubs Big Sky #8 in the Best Steeps for 2008–2009. A stunning SkiNet photograph depicts an impressive slope, which appears to approach a 90-degree angle.

View a detailed Google map that allows you to zoom in on Big Sky, courtesy of WikiMapia.

The Littler Slopes

Montana is freckled with many other under-the-radar ski slopes, of varying size and stature. The map provided by the Montana Official State Tourism Web site is interactive, allowing you to click on a resort for further description. For example, Blacktail Mountain is described as having “amazing views of Flathead Lake” and friendly service that caters to families; Bridger Bowl has been recently expanded and touts “world-class skiing at small-town rates,” with snowy Rocky Mountain scenery and terrain.

Backcountry Skiing

In late November 2008, The Great Falls Tribune reported on the increasing popularity of backcountry skiing in Montana, which occurs in places typically used for hiking and climbing in summer months. Don Scharfe, a local business owner in Kalispell, thinks the heightened interest is due to “open boundary policies” at places like Whitefish Mountain Resort (Big Mountain’s new official name), as well as “improvements in equipment and education” that enable more skiers to take advantage of the adventurous backcountry scene.

More Montana

Glacier National Park, known as the “Switzerland of North America,” offers a glimpse into America’s unspoiled natural past, according to a findingDulcinea Travel Tale that offers a first-hand account of travel to the park. Featuring amazing views from its myriad roads and hiking paths, Glacier National Park is home to moose that roam leisurely through nearby towns, and draws both adventurous and laid-back outdoor explorers.

The findingDulcinea Web Guide to Montana Travel has essential tips and ideas for visitors. The guide also provides practical online resources for trip planning, including hotel and flight Web sites, information on cities and attractions, and advice for navigating Montana.

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